January 9, 2018

The National Press Photographers Association has given its highest honor, the Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award, to Poynter's Al Tompkins and David Burnett as part of the annual NPPA Awards that recognize people for their commitment to the craft of visual journalism and to education that advances the profession.

“The recipients of the NPPA Honors and Awards represent such an impressive and diverse swath of talent and passion for journalism,” said NPPA president Melissa Lyttle. “Their unwavering commitment to journalism and the community they serve is incredible and deserving of any and all honors they receive.”

Established in 1949, the Sprague Award is NPPA's most prestigious honor. It recognizes individuals who advance and elevate photojournalism by their conduct, initiative, leadership, and skill, or for service or achievement beneficial to photojournalism and technological advances. The Sprague Awards, along with NPPA’s other top honors, will be presented during a ceremony at NPPA’s Northern Short Course 2018 in Fairfax, Virginia, at the beginning of March.

Tompkins is the senior faculty for broadcasting and online at the Poynter Institute and one of America's most requested journalism trainers and teachers. He has trained journalists around the world in writing, storytelling, ethics, critical thinking, multimedia online storytelling and writing.

Tompkins doesn’t see himself as a photojournalist but has worked with photographers throughout his career. He is especially humbled by the list of previous Sprague Awards winners that he calls a who’s who of the profession.

Al Tompkins

“These are names that are indelible parts of photojournalism,” he said.

This past year, Tompkins taught at four drone workshops sponsored by Poynter and the NPPA, resulting in more than 100 journalists being able to earn their drone pilot licenses. He also helped draft a Drone Journalism Code of Ethics that outlines how the media can responsibly utilize drones to cover news and inform the public. Tompkins has helped author ethics guidelines for the Radio and Television Digital News Association. He authored coverage guidelines for RTDNA and co-authored five editions of the RTDNA ethics workbook.

Tompkins said that the drone workshops were sold out and that a significant number of participants were mid-career journalists.

“That tells me that photojournalists, uniquely, are trying to stay not only current but on the front end of new ways to tell stories,” Tompkins said.

Burnett has a career that spans 50 years, and he is one of the most iconic people in photography. He has worked to inspire countless generations of photojournalists but also continues to give back. He's worked with Photographers for Hope to bring attention to homelessness.

“I’m very moved by the whole thing,” Burnett said of winning the Sprague Award. “It was very unexpected.”

David Burnett
David Burnett

Burnett has also taught countless workshops to pass knowledge on to up-and-coming photographers. Burnett does this in part because he remembers his first NPPA workshop in the 1960s. He was excited to be in the same room with photographers whose work he knew.

“I don’t know if I had enough gumption to speak to anybody, but I was certainly paying attention to what they had to say,” Burnett said.

Fred Ward of the National Geographic was speaking, and Burnett was especially impressed with his work and learned something from Ward’s career.

“Adventure starts and ends with being able to take your camera and go someplace,” Burnett said.

The NPPA also announced awards for others who have contributed to visual journalism.

Alyssa Adams, co-founder and executive director of the Eddie Adams Workshops, won the Joseph Costa Award. Adams has taken on the responsibility of making the Eddie Adams workshop happen every year since the passing of her husband, Eddie Adams, in 2004. The workshop accepts 100 young photographers each year so they can develop and improve their skills and connect with some of the top professionals in the industry. The Joseph Costa Award is named after NPPA’s founder and given for outstanding initiative, leadership and service in advancing the goals of NPPA in Costa’s tradition.

Daniella Zalcman, a documentary photographer, won the Clifton Edom Award. Zalcman has brought a light to better representation of women in journalism, helping create the Women Photograph website and a mentorship program that matched 22 women who are early-career visual journalists with mentors. She is a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and a fellow with the International Women's Media Foundation. The Edom Award recognizes an individual in the tradition of University of Missouri photojournalism professor Cliff Edom to inspire and motivate members of the photojournalism community to new heights.

Jose Luis Rios, director of photography at the San Antonio Express, won the Jim Gordon Editor of the Year Award. He has led staffs to award-winning work at The Washington Post and the Miami Herald.  In 2014, a trio of San Antonio Express photographers he directed, on a photo essay about the border surge of Central American women and children into Texas, were named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography. The Jim Gordon Editor of the Year Award honors an outstanding editor in who supports and promotes strong photojournalism, best use of photography, and whose dedication and efforts have moved photojournalism’s standards forward. It is named after Gordon, NPPA’s News Photographer magazine editor for 25 years until he retired in 2003.

Brett Akagi, news operations manager at KCTV-KSMO in Kansas City and assistant director of the NPPA News Video Workshop, won the John Durniak Mentor Award. Akagi is a multimedia professional and university instructor with a background in journalism, television, still photography, newspaper, online industries, social media and teaching. He uses tough love to teach the most important basics and the mistakes to avoid. Akagi has mentored dozens of student photojournalists into full-time jobs, helping launch their careers on a proper, ethical, and very well-prepared footing. The Durniak Award is given to an outstanding photojournalism mentor. Durniak was executive editor of Popular Photography magazine, a picture editor at Time magazine and The New York Times, and the managing editor of Look. During his career, he nurtured some of the most prominent photojournalists of the 20th century.

Bob Gould, broadcast journalist-in-residence at Michigan State University, has won the Robin F. Garland Educator Award. His students say that Gould doesn't just want them to pass his classes — he wants them to excel as journalists, looking for the stories that hold the powerful accountable, give a voice to the voiceless, and that "takes you there and makes you care.” Gould also is the host at Michigan State for NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism: Video contest. The Garland Award is given for outstanding service as a photojournalism educator. Garland was a picture editor and war correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post until he joined Graflex Inc. as a press technical representative after World War II. Later he became a press photography product specialist for Eastman Kodak Co. 

Matt Waite, founder of Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is awarded the J. Winton Lemen Fellowship Award. With the sudden surge in Part 107 (drone) users, Waite has been instrumental in workshops and teaching that allows journalists to become legal and authorized drone operators. Lemen was a charter member of the NPPA. In 1952, after a distinguished career as a news photographer at the Rocky Mountain News, Pittsburgh Press and Buffalo Times, he established the photo press markets division of the Eastman Kodak Co. and served as the firm's liaison with news photographers.

The Alicia Calzada First Amendment Award goes to Frank LoMonte, the director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida and the executive director of the Student Press Law Center (SPLC). LoMonte has worked very closely with the NPPA to support and defend the rights of visual journalists, especially those who are students. The Calzada award recognizes those who promote and advance the First Amendment, especially as it relates to news photographers. It is named after NPPA past-president Alicia Wagner Calzada, founder and longtime chair of NPPA's Advocacy Committee, who is now an attorney specializing in media law. 

Julia Robinson, freelance community photojournalist, based in Austin, Texas, is the winner of the Morris Berman Citation. Following Hurricane Harvey that hit the Texas Gulf Coast, Robinson and members of Austin Photo Night, an event she organizes, went to Houston and donated their time to make portraits for people who had lost all of the family photos in the storm. They also organized a print auction that raised close to $2,000 to help a family affected by the storm. The Berman Citation is given to individuals or organizations for special contributions that have advanced the interests of photojournalism. 

The Kenneth P. McLaughlin Award of Merit goes to Lynn Oberlander, general counsel of the Gizmodo Media Group who previously had the same role for First Look Media Works. Her work at First Look Media Works was instrumental in obtaining support from the Press Freedom Defense Fund for the appeals case of one of our members. The McLaughlin Award is given to those who have rendered ongoing and outstanding service in the interests of news photography. McLaughlin, a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle until his death in 1966, was the third president of the NPPA.

Bill Tiernan is the winner of the Bert Williams Award. He worked as a staff photographer for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, for more than 30 years and recently retired, after a career of more than 40 years. Photographers who worked with the award-winning photographer admired Tiernan’s ability to come back each day with a new way of seeing a common scene. The Burt Williams Award is in memory of one of NPPA’s founders and its first national secretary. It is given to a news photographer with at least 40 years of service to the industry.

The John Long Ethics Award is given to Dr. Deni Elliott, Poynter Jamison Chair in Media Ethics and Press Policy at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She is the author of many books and articles on ethics, including being the co-author of “Ethics for a Digital Era.”  Elliott also was moderator and expert in photojournalism ethics when the NPPA Code of Ethics was updated. She helped the NPPA’s ethics committee perfect the code, developing a consistent and useful Code of Ethics that has become the industry standard and served as a template for other journalism organizations’ Codes of Ethics.

The Outstanding Student Chapter Award goes to the Ball State University NPPA Student Chapter in Muncie, Indiana. Associate professor Martin Smith-Rodden, Ph.D. was a photo editor for years at The Virginian-Pilot and was nationally recognized for his photo editing through numerous awards. In academia, he has helped build a robust chapter at Ball State University.

NPPA Special Citation has been awarded to Parker Gyokeres, a New York-based drone pilot, Propellerhead Aerial Photography. Gyokeres volunteered his services in Houston following Hurrican Harvey as floodwaters rose. He’s part of an eight-person team of professional pilots and mappers who are working with local government agencies and the Red Cross to assess the damage and work out how to respond.

The NPPA Humanitarian Award goes to Dar Yasin, a Kashmir-based photojournalist for the Associated Press, and Patrick Fallon, a freelancer in Los Angeles. Yasin was covering a protest event when he stopped his coverage to help rescue an 18-year-old girl who had been hit by a flying stone. Risking his safety, he picked her up and rushed her to a hospital. Fallon rescued a woman from her burning home in Redondo Beach, California.

NPPA president Lyttle gave two President’s Awards. NPPA Regional Chairs Representative Andrew Stanfill was recognized for reinvigorating the regional chairs with a profound interest in making a change at a grass-roots level. The second honor went to University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Calla Kessler for her unwavering commitment to the truth and fighting injustice in the industry by publicly bringing harassment charges against a well-known photojournalist who was her professor.  Kessler’s strength and perseverance has encouraged many women and men in the photojournalism to speak out and do what’s right. “She should serve as an inspiration to us all,” Lyttle said.

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